A GREAT SUNDAY READ TO UNDERSTAND TODAY’S GOP: “How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party,” by Derek Robertson for POLITICO Mag: “A half-decade ago, the originally Boston-based site and its rabid fan community wouldn’t have scanned as ‘political’ at all. But now, its proudly Neanderthal, reactionary ethos aligns perfectly with the side of our political binary that Trump reconfigured: the one whose common denominator is a tooth-and-nail, middle-finger unwillingness to accept liberal social norms.”
AND ON THAT NOTE … BARSTOOL CHIEF BEING COURTED BY MI GOP: Alex Isenstadt writes in with this scoop: While this year’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference is set to feature the likes of former VP MIKE PENCE and former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. NIKKI HALEY, organizers are trying to get another kind of big-name figure: Barstool Sports founder DAVE PORTNOY.
The Michigan Republican Party has been waging a quiet campaign to get Portnoy to appear at the biennial event, which is to take place Sept. 24-26 at Mackinac Island’s famed Grand Hotel. The party sent Portnoy, whose website has become a cultural sensation thanks to its politically incorrect style and unapologetic embrace of bro culture, a March letter proposing that he use his time on the island to — among other things — do one of his trademark pizza reviews and host an event for the Barstool Fund, which raises money for small businesses impacted by Covid.
Portnoy, who has described himself as “apolitical” but said he voted for DONALD TRUMP in 2016, later mentioned on his podcast that he’d gotten the invite, but said he wouldn’t be going. But Michigan GOP officials have kept up the campaign. A few days later, state party chief of staff PAUL CORDES sent Portnoy — better known among his fans as “El Presidente” — a follow-up letter declaring: “Frankly, I don’t care if you come to this conference and rip on politics and politicians. I just want you to come and tell your story.”
POLITICO reached out to Portnoy and a Barstool rep for comment but hasn’t heard back.
Happy Father’s Day! The “Staffer” podcast has a special episode collecting stories from various politicos talking about the impact their dads made on them, including DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Chris Lu, Anne Caprara and Katie Fallon. Listen here
The White House announced this morning that President JOE BIDEN will welcome Afghan President ASHRAF GHANI and ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, chair of the High Council for National Reconciliation, for a visit Friday. Other than that, it’s a sleepy Sunday morning in D.C., but there’s a lot going on throughout the country:
EYE-POPPING NUMBERS FOR GRASSLEY IN IOWA — Revered pollster ANN SELZER is out with a new survey for the Des Moines Register, and the numbers for GOP Sen. CHUCK GRASSLEY are stunning.
— Just 27% of likely voters said they would reelect Grassley if the 2022 election were held today. Meanwhile, 64% said they would vote for somebody new.
Grassley, who is 87, has not yet decided whether he will seek reelection for an eighth term, and Dems are eyeing the seat as a potential pickup opportunity. The Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel reports that Selzer “has not previously asked respondents ahead of past election cycles whether they would vote to reelect Grassley, likely because his ‘stellar poll numbers’ conveyed ‘a certain invincibility’ that made the question irrelevant. ‘Well, it appears he is now vincible,’ she said.” More at the Des Moines Register
BIZARRE TWISTS IN NYC’S MAYORAL RACE — As the candidates struggle to navigate ranked-choice voting in the final days of the New York mayoral primary, we’re seeing some truly strange things happen.
First, on Saturday, ANDREW YANG and KATHRYN GARCIA campaigned together — but they seemed to have slightly different ideas about what the team-up meant.
— Yang went so far as to tell voters: “Rank me No. 1 and then rank Kathryn Garcia No. 2,” according to the NYT.
— But an hour later, Garcia told a crowd: “Let me be very clear, I’m not co-endorsing. We are campaigning together. We are promoting ranked-choice voting.”
Current frontrunner ERIC ADAMS suggested that the Yang-Garcia pairing was a racially motivated slap in the face on Juneteenth. “They’re saying that we can’t trust a person of color to be the mayor of the City of New York, where the city is overwhelmingly people of color,” said Adams, who is Black.
— Yang, in response: “I would tell Eric Adams that I’ve been Asian my entire life.” More from Tina Nguyen, Jesse Naranjo and Amanda Eisenberg
WILL WALKER RUN? — That’s the question in Georgia, as Republicans wait to see whether retired NFL running back (and University of Georgia great) HERSCHEL WALKER throws in for the 2022 U.S. Senate race. He’s been pre-endorsed by Trump, and in a cryptic new Twitter video, Walker suggested that he is “getting ready.”
In Atlanta, NYT’s Richard Fausset describes the reality on the ground — and the high stakes for Trump: “If Walker indeed jumps into the Senate race, it will go a long way toward firming up the 2022 pro-Trump roster in Georgia, where the former president has vowed to handpick G.O.P. candidates to exact revenge on the Republicans who declined to support his false contention that he was the true winner of the 2020 election in the state … But a Walker candidacy may also prove to be the most high-stakes test of whether Mr. Trump’s fervent wish to play kingmaker will serve his party’s best interests in a hotly contested swing state that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.”
UGLY SCENE FOR RON-JOHN — At a Juneteenth celebration in Milwaukee on Saturday, Sen. RON JOHNSON was greeted with a chorus of boos, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But it sounds like he maybe could’ve seen this one coming: “Last year, the Wisconsin Republican blocked legislation to make Juneteenth a national holiday. On Tuesday, he relented, saying, ‘While it still seems strange that having taxpayers provide federal employees paid time off is now required to celebrate the end of slavery, it is clear that there is no appetite in Congress to further discuss the matter.’”
BEST OF THE SUNDAY SHOWS …
— Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.) on whether he’d support a bipartisan infrastructure package, on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “Nobody really knows what is going to be in this bipartisan agreement, and how it is going to be paid for. So if it is roads and bridges, yeah, of course we need to do that and I support that. If it is regressive taxation — you know, raising the gas tax or a fee on electric vehicles, or the privatization of infrastructure — no, I wouldn’t support it.”
— Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM on infrastructure talks on “Fox News Sunday”: “The difference between this negotiation and the earlier negotiation is that we’re willing to add more new money … President Biden, if you want an infrastructure deal of a trillion dollars, it’s there for the taking. You just need to get involved and lead.”
— Sanders on Sen. JOE MANCHIN’S (D-W.Va.) proposed voting rights compromise, on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “What the House passed, H.R. 1 — I think that is a serious, comprehensive effort to protect American democracy. We will see what evolves here in the Senate.” DANA BASH: “Sounds like you’re open to the compromise bill.” Sanders: “Sounds like I’m open to doing everything I possibly can to protect American democracy.”
— Graham on Manchin’s proposal: “I like Joe Manchin a lot, but we had the largest turnout in the history of the United States, and states are in charge of voting in America. So, I don’t like the idea of taking the power to redistrict away from state legislators.”
— National Security Adviser JAKE SULLIVAN on the outlook for Iran nuclear talks on ABC’s “This Week”: “What I would say is the ultimate decision for whether or not to go back into the deal lies with Iran’s supreme leader. He was the same person before this election as he is after the election.” More on that from David Cohen
BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president and first lady JILL BIDEN will depart Wilmington, Del., at 8:25 p.m. en route to the White House, where they are scheduled to arrive at 9:20 p.m.
HARRIS’ SUNDAY — VP KAMALA HARRIS has nothing on her public schedule.
THE WHITE HOUSE
UKRAINE FOLLOW-UP — On Saturday, we told you the Biden administration placed a pause on a military aid package to Ukraine. The White House took issue with that item, which stated that the package was paused ahead of the meeting between Biden and Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN. In a statement, WH press secretary JEN PSAKI pushed back on that characterization:
“The idea that we have held back security assistance to Ukraine is nonsense,” Psaki said. “Just last week — in the run-up to the U.S.-Russia Summit — we provided a $150 million package of security assistance, including lethal assistance. We have now provided the entire amount appropriated by Congress through the Ukraine security assistance initiative.” Read Psaki’s full statement
VA TO COVER GENDER-CONFIRMATION SURGERY — In an announcement that came at a Pride Month event Saturday in Orlando, VA Secretary DENIS MCDONOUGH “is moving to make gender confirmation surgery available to transgender veterans through Veterans Affairs health care coverage,” reports CNN’s Ellie Kaufman.
Though it’s almost certain to become a culture-war skirmish, the change came as a result of the “recommendation of our clinicians,” McDonough said. “[T]his is a health care decision that has very real physical health care impacts as well as significant mental health impacts.’”
DEMS’ NEW GUN CONTROL STRATEGY — Our own Nicholas Wu is out with a smart read this morning on Connecticut Sen. CHRIS MURPHY’S new strategy to enact gun control legislation while avoiding the pitfalls that have held up wide-reaching infrastructure and election bills.
The idea? Introducing a scaled-down guns bill — “most likely a curtailed plan to boost background checks for firearm buyers,” Nick writes — instead of bringing up one of the more comprehensive House-passed bills that stands no shot of making it past a Senate filibuster.
Murphy on the strategy: “I’m not interested in bringing a proposal to the Senate floor that can’t even get 50 [votes]. And the quickest way to get 50 is to keep all the Democrats together.” Read Nick’s full article
WHY IS THE EQUALITY ACT STALLING? — As activists for LGBTQ civil rights push to pass the Equality Act, WaPo’s Mike DeBonis reports that “the partisanship around the issue on Capitol Hill stands in contrast to the wide-ranging support for LGBTQ rights among the public at large, in corporate America, and even in the federal judiciary,” DeBonis writes, noting last year’s ruling authored by Justice NEIL GORSUCH that effectively banned employment discrimination on the basis of sexual identity.
But amid “Republicans’ increasing reliance on transgender rights as a wedge issue,” it’s hard to see how a critical mass of Senate GOPers get on board. Adding to the intrigue: Sen. SUSAN COLLINS (R-Maine), who co-sponsored an earlier version of the bill, has declined to sign on to the legislation in this Congress. More on that from WaPo
WHITEHOUSE STILL BELONGS TO ALL-WHITE-HOUSE — “‘It’s a Long Tradition in RI,’ Whitehouse Defends Family’s Membership in All-White Club,” GoLocalProv News: “U.S. Senator SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D-R.I.) continues to defend his family’s membership in the all-white private Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport. GoLocal interviewed Whitehouse on Friday in Pawtucket and when asked if the private club had admitted any minorities since GoLocal first raised the issue in 2017, Whitehouse said, ‘I think the people who are running the place are still working on that and I’m sorry it hasn’t happened yet.’
“Both Whitehouse and his wife SANDRA as well as their families have been members of the club for decades. Whitehouse did transfer his shares in the club to his wife years ago, and she is now one of the largest shareholders in the all-white club. The club’s membership is a who’s who Newport, Palm Beach, and New York wealth. ‘It’s a long tradition in Rhode Island and there are many of them and I think we just need to work our way through the issues, thank you,’ said Whitehouse as he was ushered away by a staffer.”
WILD STORY OF THE DAY — WaPo’s Jon Swaine and Emma Brown are out with a wild story on the “Italygate” conspiracy theory — which falsely claims that an Italian defense contractor worked with the CIA to change ballots cast for Trump into ones cast for Biden. It appears to have been pushed by a woman who goes by MICHELE ROOSEVELT EDWARDS, who once falsely claimed to be the owner of a $30 million mansion and has a reputation “as someone who could negotiate with warlords and pirates” in Somalia. It’s a fascinating look at the universe of people who managed to have the ear of the White House in the closing months of 2020:
“Late last December, as President Donald Trump pressed senior officials to find proof of election fraud, White House Chief of Staff MARK MEADOWS emailed acting attorney general JEFFREY ROSEN a letter detailing an outlandish theory of how an Italian defense contractor had conspired with U.S. intelligence to rig the 2020 presidential contest.
“The letter, which was among records released by Congress this past week, was printed under the letterhead of USAerospace Partners, a little-known Virginia aviation company. … Though her name was not mentioned in either document, both Virginia organizations are led by Michele Roosevelt Edwards, according to state corporate filings reviewed by The Washington Post. … The discovery of the role Edwards’s two firms had in spreading the Italygate conspiracy theory, as well as the roles others played, sheds new light on its origins and on how the claims made their way from feverish online speculation to some of the most powerful figures in the government.” Read the full story at WaPo
VOTING RIGHTS LATEST — “How Republican States Are Expanding Their Power Over Elections,” by NYT’s Nick Corasaniti and Reid Epstein: “G.O.P. lawmakers [across the country] have also stripped secretaries of state of their power, asserted more control over state election boards, made it easier to overturn election results, and pursued several partisan audits and inspections of 2020 results.
“Republican state lawmakers have introduced at least 216 bills in 41 states to give legislatures more power over elections officials, according to the States United Democracy Center, a new bipartisan organization that aims to protect democratic norms. Of those, 24 have been enacted into law across 14 states.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
DEADLY ATTACK AT FL PRIDE PARADE — “Police: 1 dead, 1 hospitalized after truck hits pedestrians at Stonewall Pride Parade; driver in custody,” WSVN: “Rep. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ, D-Fla., was one of the public officials who took part in the event and was reportedly near the crash. … [Fort Lauderdale Mayor DEAN] TRANTALIS described the crash as a deliberate attack on the LGBTQ community.”
WILL NEVADA’S PUBLIC OPTION BECOME A BLUE-STATE TREND? — As some Democrats grow “frustrated by the sluggish pace of federal action” on health care, WSJ’s Stephanie Armour and Jim Carlton report on the reforms underway in Nevada, where Gov. STEVE SISOLAK recently signed a new law to create a “public option” for health insurance.
The move could mark a new trend as other Democratic-controlled states move ahead with similar plans. This week, Colorado Gov. JARED POLIS signed a new public option into law, and Dem state legislators in Illinois, New Mexico and Oregon are eyeing similar legislation. More on that from the WSJ
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
IRAN SO FAR AWAY — “For Biden, Iranian Hard-liner May Be Best Path to Restoring Nuclear Deal,” by NYT’s David Sanger and Farnaz Fassihi: “Iran’s announcement on Saturday that an ultraconservative former head of the judiciary, EBRAHIM RAISI, has been elected president now touches off an unpredictable diplomatic drama: The ascension of a hard-line government in Iran may actually present the Biden administration with a brief opportunity to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with the country.
“President Biden’s top aides, who have been negotiating with Iranian officials behind closed doors in Vienna … believe the moment may have come. And, they say, the next six weeks before Mr. Raisi is inaugurated present a unique window to strike a final deal with Iran’s leadership on a painful decision it has been delaying.”
ODDS AND ENDS
PILLOW TALK — “The Spectacular Failure of the MyPillow Guy’s Mask Operation,” by The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger: “MyPillow CEO MIKE LINDELL decided to retrofit his factories to make masks instead at the start of the pandemic. Now, after losing millions, he hates masks and wants to burn them.”
FAMILY MATTERS — “Nina Simone’s Family Blame Kamala Harris For Taking Singer’s Estate Away From Them,” by The Daily Beast’s Cheyenne Roundtree
CLICKER — “Scenes From Juneteenth: America’s Newest Holiday, 156 Years in the Making,” NYT: “From Brooklyn to Galveston, there were scenes of joy and reflections on the meaning of the holiday. ‘We have to celebrate that we survived,’ one man said.”
R.I.P. CHAMP — “‘Our sweet, good boy’: First pooch Champ Biden dies, age 13, after months in White House,” USA Today: “President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are mourning the loss of their first presidential pup, Champ Biden. The president’s aged German shepherd died at home just months after he helped bring canine joy back to the White House.
“The president and first lady remembered the ‘sweet, good boy’ on Instagram Saturday. ‘Our hearts are heavy today as we let you all know that our beloved German Shepherd, Champ, passed away peacefully at home,’ he wrote. ‘He was our constant, cherished companion during the last 13 years and was adored by the entire Biden family.’”
ICYMI — “Washington Society Steps Back Out,” by NYT’s Shawn McCreesh: “Like a grizzly waking from hibernation, the ruling class is coming out of this thing with an appetite. After inboxes across town were hit with an email blast from the D.C. impresario Tammy Haddad touting the reopening of lunch at Cafe Milano, bureaucrats and media folk flocked to the gaudy Georgetown restaurant where one goes to be seen. …
“The restaurant’s owner, Franco Nuschese, has also been turning over his nearby villa and its three acres to Juleanna Glover, the consultant and mogul whisperer, for a series of large dinner parties. Among Russian olive bushes and Italianate columns, elites who gnawed on Wagyu beef and lobster salad there, at various times earlier this month, included Suzanne Clark, the leader of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Kewsong Lee, the chief executive of the Carlyle Group; Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan; and Norah O’Donnell, the CBS news anchor. As the establishment returns to its playground — some would say swamp — the contours of the new Washington are beginning to take shape.”
SPOTTED: John Delaney at I Ricchi on Saturday night. … Singer Estelle at a private dinner hosted by Tanya Lombard to commemorate Juneteenth on Saturday night at Cafe Milano with Malaika Jones, Beverly Bond, Simone Eccleston, Kendrick Meek, Yebbie Watkins, Andre Wells, Bobette Gillette, Lyndon Boozer, Lance Mangum and Monique Frazier.
TRANSITIONS — Justin Weiss will be deputy press secretary at NASA. He previously was comms director for Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.). … James Huddleston is joining the FAA as a senior adviser in the Aviation Safety Office. He previously was legislative director for Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).
WEDDING, via NYT: Kate Harris, director of the Reimagine New York Commission and an Obama Treasury and State Department alum, and Abhishek Gupta, an operating partner at Boldstart Ventures, got married June 12 at the Reform Club in Amagansett, N.Y.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) and Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) … Adrienne Elrod … DCCC’s David Kornahrens … POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein … CNN’s Janie Boschma … Amazon’s Kyle Scriven … Jeremy Wiggins … Jacquie Hayes-Byrd … Ian Prior … Brandon Arnold of the National Taxpayers Union … Tom Zigo of the MPA … Brad Howard of Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s (D-Fla.) office … Susan O’Neill … Caroline Hutton of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee … Ryan Walker … Sara Pearl Kenigsberg … Kristin White … Dan McManus … León Rodríguez of Seyfarth Shaw … Ginger Loper … former Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) … Chris Grieco … Brendan Welch … Pennsylvania A.G. Josh Shapiro … Ed Miyagishima … Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki … POLITICO Europe’s Jeanette Minns
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